LOS ANGELES, Calif. (July 24, 2019) — It’s the beginning of the end. No, this isn’t a eulogy for LAFC’s MLS Cup hopes, rather a fact of the times. With 13 matches left in the regular season it is now the start of the playoff push.
LAFC host Atlanta United on Friday night in a match that could see things tangled at the top. With a win, Atlanta would find themselves at the top of the table, for at least a day. Meanwhile, for LAFC, a win would keep them above the mayhem for another week.
LAFC back home, host Atlanta United as top-seeds in the MLS meet for second time ever
LAFC currently sit nine points clear in the Western Conference and seven clear in the race for the Supporter’s Shield and home-field advantage. For only the second time ever, Atlanta and LAFC will meet on the pitch. While LAFC will be looking for revenge, Atlanta enters the match with the momentum and confidence. The historic honeymoon period is over for the black and gold. If they want the happy-ever-after, they’ll have to work for it.
The defending champions had a rough start to the 2019 campaign. Being unceremoniously knocked out of the CONCACAF Champion’s League and early MLS struggles raised plenty of questions. However, as champions do, they never wavered and after steady improvements they find themselves second in the East. Atlanta heads into the match having won three of their last four matches, scoring 10 goals in that span. Josef Martinez will be the one to keep eyes on, as he’s in great form, scoring five of their 10 goals. With a stumbling LAFC, this could be Atlanta’s chance to show the league the road to the MLS Cup still goes through them.
🔥 High Heat 🔥
— LAFC (@LAFC) July 24, 2019
LAFC under the bright lights — again
Make no mistake, last week’s loss was a disaster and disappointment. With all the momentum and motivation leading up to the match, LAFC just didn’t show up when it came time. In truth, despite the record, the last month hasn’t been the best for the league leaders. Three losses, several lackluster performances and not showing up in two of the biggest matches of the season. Even still, they have a chance to remind everyone why they have been the best team in the league all year. LAFC has the talent to get the full three points, if they can overcome the mental hurdle of a big game.
On the job experience
The recent narrative surrounding LAFC is harsh.
During the NBA Eastern Conference Finals, Kawhi Leonard was asked how the Raptors would be the Milwaukee Bucks four times in a row. “I don’t know, I haven’t done it,” Kawahi said.
Of course, that, like many Kawhi quotes, was used as more fodder for laughter. However, the point is, he is right. The same can be said about LAFC. They haven’t even completed their second year of MLS competition. While they have been great, they haven’t had many chances to win the big one.
Whether you want to believe it or not, LAFC is still learning how to win. They completed the first step of getting to the playoffs in their inaugural season. Now, expectations of another step being taken are high. As important as the three points are, the performance will speak volumes. All defeats have come with lackluster efforts. Atlanta coming to town will be yet another opportunity to win with all eyes watching. Proving they can win a big game not just to supporters, but to themselves.
— LAFC (@LAFC) July 22, 2019
The last time these two met, much like this week, was after an LAFC disaster agains the Galaxy. Atlanta took advantage at home, scoring five and keeping the clean sheet. This time, LAFC defend The Banc, a place that has become more fortress than stadium. LAFC have yet to lose back-to-back matches this season. However, they will have their hands full with an in-form Atlanta attack.
With El-Munir out with injury sustained in the Galaxy, Jordan Harvey will be back in as starting left back. The defensive effort for LAFC will have to improve if they plan on keeping Atlanta under three goals. In the end, fireworks will fly Friday, but LAFC pull it out in the end, 3-2.